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Dr. Ha Dang joins the Department of Medicine

Dr. Ha X. Dang joined the Department of Medicine in the Division of Oncology in July, 2018 as an Instructor.

Dr. Dang is broadly interested in studying life via genome analysis and development of novel methods to facilitate this process. His current research focuses on understanding genomic aberrations that impact cancer evolution and response to therapies. That includes (i) elucidating genomic alterations that contribute to cancer heterogeneity, clonal evolution, tumor progression, and metastasis; (ii) identifying molecular biomarkers of cancer treatment response and patient outcome; and (iii) dissecting the roles of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) in cancers. To this end, Dr. Dang has been involved in a number of large-scale cancer genome studies including:

(1) The clonal evolution of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML): This study utilized deep whole genome and ultra deep targeted validation sequencing to track clonal evolution of an AML patient throughout the course of treatment. Dr. Dang worked on clonal evolution analysis that detailed the emergence of primary rare subclones and polyclonal models in tumor relapse following chemotherapies.

(2) The first two characterizations of lncRNAs in cancers using RNA sequencing: These studies revealed the landscape of lung cancer associated lncRNAs (LCALs), and pan-cancer associated lncRNAs (onco-lncRNAs). Subsequently, Dr. Dang identified several lncRNAs that had functional and prognostic impact in lung, prostate, and colorectal cancers and together with his collaborators they validated and characterized their mechanisms using in vitro and in vivo models.

(3) The Stand Up To Cancer – Prostate Cancer Foundation (SU2C-PCF) dream challenge: Part of this multi-institutional study outlined the genomic hallmarks and structural variations in metastatic castration resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) via deep sequencing and analysis of whole genome and transcriptome of more than 100 patients. Dr. Dang led the discovery of a novel non-coding duplication of an enhancer targeting androgen receptor, occurred in >80% of mCRPC patients. This opens doors for subsequent studies and development of novel therapeutics to inhibit androgen response in mCRPC.

Dr. Dang has also been actively working on analytical approaches and developing tools for genome analysis and visualization. He led the development of ClonEvol (clonal evolution inference and visualization, http://github.com/hdng/clonevol), contributed to FishPlot (clonal progression visualization, https://github.com/chrisamiller/fishplot), developed Allerdictor (allergen prediction, http://allerdictor.biol.vt.edu/), and annotated and built the Alternaria genomes database (http://alternaria.biol.vt.edu).

Dr. Dang is currently leading multiple other studies including the clonal evolution of metastatic colorectal cancer, the analysis of competing endogenous lncRNAs in cancers, and various transcriptome and lncRNAs studies in metastatic and resistant solid cancers.

Dr. Dang obtained a BE in computer science from Hanoi University of Science and Technology and a PhD in genetics, bioinformatics, and computational biology from Virginia Tech. His postdoctoral training was in cancer genomics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

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